WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — A bill authored by California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren will boost the pay of H-1B visa workers in the U.S., should it receive the necessary bi-partisan support needed to pass.
The bill relies primarily on salary to distribute the visas, meaning that firms that pay well above the prevailing wage will have the best chances of securing visas for their employees. Lofgren has been working alongside Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.), whose support in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives is critical.
Titled the “High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2015,” the bill has been in the works for the past year. A draft has reportedly been completed and is ready for submission, however, that does not mean it will automatically be introduced. Negotiations on both sides are ongoing and there are no immediate plans to move forward with the legislation.
H-1B visas are currently distributed through a lottery system, and requests for the visa routinely exceed the annual cap of 85,000. The bill doesn’t eliminate the lottery entirely, but instead emphasizes its importance.
The legislation is designed to encourage employers to pay 150 percent or 200 percent of the prevailing wage level, of which there are four levels. Level 1 is considered entry level; level 4 for the most experienced and capable employees. Prevailing wage levels vary nationwide, in Gainesville, Fla., for instance, the prevailing wage for a level 4 computer programmer is $67,621. In San Francisco, it’s $123,885.
Wages alone don’t set a priority in the distribution of the visas, priority is given first to employers “that hire mainly U.S. workers.” Next in line are H-1B dependent employers. There are different thresholds for determining dependency, but for large users a dependent employer is someone with 15% or more of their employees on temporary visas.
The bill also eliminates per-country caps on green cards, employment-based green cards are currently capped at 140,000 per year, with no more than seven percent allowed to come from one country. Removal of such a cap would undoubtedly help applicants coming from India and China, who make up the majority of those seeking permanent residency.